The pandemic-led health and socio-economic crisis have hit women and girls in a disproportionate fashion, leading to increased feminisation of poverty, domestic work, work burden as well as a spike in domestic violence. At the same time, it has also caused a boost in the feminisation of agriculture, making rural women play a critical role in providing household income. This presents an unmissable opportunity for the economic empowerment of women, which has the potential to remove all structural barriers hampering gender equality within India.
Historically, agriculture has undergone a series of revolutions that have driven efficiency, yield and profitability to levels that were previously unreachable. The market estimates suggest that the next decade would witness a “digital agricultural revolution” that would help meet the needs of the agricultural sector. With the majority of the Indian population employed under the sector, efforts need to be put forth in addressing barriers that are currently hindering the adoption of digital technologies within this sector.
The mass exodus of migrant workers to their native villages following the temporary closing down of industries in urban areas to curb the COVID-19 outbreak has increased the demand for employment in Rural India. This situation creates a new opportunity to improve the rural economy by employing such population in infrastructure development and other vital government projects like waste management and improving access to water in rural India. To utilise this opportunity, the government had launched Gram Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan in select states. However, the new initiative has diluted the role of MGNREGS, another similar but comprehensive rural employment generation scheme.
Recently, the Central government decided to suspend the Member of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) scheme for two years in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. It sought to garner around 7,900 crores by suspending the scheme for the fight against the corona crisis. Following this, few state governments decided to suspend their MLALAD schemes too. This decision attracted diverse commentary by media and civil society.
According to the latest statistics, about 25% of the Indian population belongs to the rural poor. Women make up one-third of the Indian labour force. However, social constraints have prevented them from having access to and making use of the available resources that may help them improve their living conditions. Self Help Group is seen by many as the catalyst for rural development, women and social empowerment. Its importance in the Indian economy is seen through many success stories like production of 13 different bioagents to support organic farming by Sabari Swasraya Sanghom of Nellarachal tribal hamlet, Kudumbashree SHG, etc. They are not only inspirational but also the obvious solutions to the existing socio-economic problems of India.
The Union Budget allotted over Rs.80,000 crore for the up-gradation of 1.25 lakh km roads under the phase III of the PMGSY. This government initiative has greatly enhanced India’s rural population’s standard of living and is one of the significant steps towards inclusive economic growth. Not only is this scheme intending to promote inclusive growth but is also taking into account the need for sustainability of the environment by making use of green technology while constructing the road. Under the first two phases of PMGSY, a total of 1.25 lakh km of rural roads have been built across various villages in the country. The government has set a target to construct 7, 000 km of roads under this initiative during 2019-20. This scheme as a whole, until now, has brought in a significant improvement in ease of living for India’s very large rural population.
Housing is one of the basic requirements of human survival. Normal citizen owning a house provides significant economic and social security status in society. For a shelter-less person, a house with basic necessity brings about a profound change in his existence, endowing him with an identity, thus integrating him with his immediate social milieu. With this in mind, the government had launched Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana in 2015 to provide housing for all by 2022. Numerous challenges are faced by the government while undertaking this momentous scheme. These need to be addressed for this vision to be implemented within the deadline.
In recent years, India has charted a unique path to digitization, the impact of which is inclusive, empowering and transformative. It is amongst the top two countries globally, only after China on many dimensions of digital adoption. By 2022, India’s digital economy may cross $1 trillion. This was the focus of India Digital Summit 2019 that was held in New Delhi. Since its launch, it has transformed India significantly. However, it is facing numerous challenges in the current times and the government needs to take steps to make it successful for the inclusiveness and empowerment of all Indian citizens.
Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act is a labour law that provides “Right to Work” to the rural population. It not only provides work but also has the potential to improve the infrastructure of rural India and standard of living of the rural population. However, in recent times, this Act is facing numerous issues at the ground-level. This is also contributing to India’s current economic slowdown and unemployment crisis. Therefore, the government must take measures to promote this scheme for the overall economic development of the nation.